TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2003
EVENTS ARE MOVING QUICKLY: Events are moving quickly on the Culture of Lying front. In this mornings Post, E. J. Dionnes column, The Say-Anything School, discusses the culture of deception surrounding this president. Meanwhile, Harold Meyersons column, Enron-Like Unreality, says there are leading figures in this administration who think that when the real facts dont look so good, its fine to substitute your own. Dionne is late to the chase, but he simply must lead. More on his column tomorrow.
A CULTURE OF LYING (PART 2): During Campaign 2000, everyone said they agreed on the basics. The baby-boomers would soon be retiring. Therefore, Social Security surpluses had to be used for paying down federal debt. (This would strengthen Social Security in the coming decades.) Here, for example, was Candidate Bush at the first Bush-Gore debate:
BUSH (10/3/00): I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut.What a thoughtful man! More specifically, Bush pledged that the entire projected Social Security surplus ($2.4 trillion in the coming ten years) would be used for Social Security alone. And because all that money had to go to SS, we could only cut taxes by $1.3 trillion. Bush said this at every stop. That was what this dissembling man said when he was trying to win over voters.
But that was then, and this is empire, as we learned in Sundays Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/12/03). Bush got his $1.3 trillion tax cut in 2001; a second small tax cut in 2002; and now hes seeking $726 billion more. And not only thathe plans to cut taxes every year after this, according to Milbank and Balz! So how in the world do all these tax cuts fit what Candidate Bush told the public? Its very hard to figure that out. But inside the press corps, cowering pundits all know that they must never ask.
Its hard to know just how to explain the change in Bushs approach. After all, were now spending large amounts of those Social Security surplusesmoney Bush said he never would touch. Despite that, even more tax cuts are being proposedand no one dares ask the manly-man why. Bushs endless cuts fly in the face of his solemn pledges in Campaign 2000. But of one thing you can be certain. Cowering pundits know not to question. A culture of faking surrounds George Bushand scripted pundits know theyre paid not to see it.
How odd is the mainstream press corps current culture? Lets look at a remarkable column in last Thursdays Post. We think the piece made a lot of good sense. But midway through, its authorJonathan Chaitmade some remarkable statements. As Chait noted, some antiwar liberals have come to believe that Bush made the whole thing up about weapons of mass destruction. Chait thinks Iraq did have such weapons. But listen to Chaits remarkable statements as he considers the alternate view:
CHAIT: Its entirely appropriate to question the honesty of Bushs stated rationale for fighting. After all, the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda are shot through with deceit. (Consider his shifting, implausible and contradictory justifications for cutting taxes.) And its also true that a few elements of the administrations evidence against Iraq have turned out to be overstatements or outright hoaxes.Chait thinks there really were WMDs; here at THE HOWLER, weve assumed as much too. But note the pundits remarkable statements. Bushs claims should never be taken at face value, he says. After all, the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda are shot through with deceit. Indeed, its also true that a few elements of the administrations evidence against Iraq have turned out to be outright hoaxes. The key thing to remember about WMD? Believing that they really existed doesnt require taking Bush at his word.
Hoaxes. Deceit. You cant believe Bush. And these statements come from a bright young writer who generally supported Bush on Iraq! But Chait understands what others will nota Culture of Lying surrounds George Bush. Lying has followed wherever he goes. Chait doesnt choose to ignore it.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?Youd think that no one else was so stupid. But you forgot one thingChris Matthews is. You know, its funny. I shouldnt talk about ratings, he said, also gazing at Bushs crotch. But last night was a riot because these pictures were showing last night, and everybodys tuning in to see these pictures again.
As weve told you, our discourse spirals downward, before our very eyes. Carlson slurps her gooey desserts. Matthews and Liddy praise Bushs stuffed shorts. And you can rest assured that this store-bought crew wont ask the president what hes doing on taxes. In fact, a Culture of Lying surrounded Bush when he made that pledge on that campaign stage. And the press corps already knew one thingthey knew that they must never notice.
TOMORROW: Candidate Bush lied in Lehrers face. Then he lied more the next day.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your new book, When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country. What do you mean by that?And yes, boys and girls, you can giggle hard now, because those were dick jokes also! Its almost impossible to comprehend how stupid the cable audience is. But millionaire fakersChris Matthews, for instanceare eager to learn. And to pander.
The Daily update
MARGARET DOESNT SWEAT, SHE GLISTENS: Even by Saturday, vacuous insider pundit Margaret Carlson still didnt have the first clue. Here she was on Capital Gang, making a joke of your discourse:
MARK SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, the commander in chief, the president, is certainly entitled to visit any military installation, any servicemen and women any time the commander in chief chooses to do so. But why did the White House lie and change its story so many times about this visit? He needed the plane, he couldnt get out thereits only 30 miles offshore. I mean, do you have an explanation?Its hard to believe, but even by Saturday, the half-witted pundit still lacked the first clue. Byrd had said nothing about the cost of Bushs tripbut five days later, there she went again, slamming him as if he had. Nor had the solon said a word about the troops staying at sea a day longer. But how could Carlson know any facts? As we saw from her diary at Slate, Carlson spent the previous week going to lunch, renovating her home, and giving speeches about her vacuous book. In no other sector can a major professional be so palpably unprepared and uninformed. But inside the cohort we describe as a press corps, misfeasance has long been the norm.
Of course, there was something that Carlson did know; she knew she mustnt criticize Bush. (Ari looked bad; the manly-man didnt.) Meanwhile, one other Standard Denigration of Gore appeared in Carlsons comments. In Campaign 2000, Candidate Gore was officially sweaty; trained pundits knew that they must try to say it. Incredibly, Carlson even managed to voice that spin-point as she clowned her way through Saturdays program (youll find it halfway through the transcript). Its astounding that someone as empty as Carlson plays a key role in our public discourse. Tomorrow, well watch the simpering scribe as she recites with her favorite, Chris M.